Saturday, February 25, 2006

Travels With Uncle Bunny

Even on the road, I've found that if you pay close enough attention, something stupid is bound to happen. Often its quite intentional, sometimes inadvertant but always unique in that you're in unfamiliar surroundings and bound to react like more of a bigger jerk than you already are.

Years ago I was travelling in upstate New York with my then girlfriend and soon to be wife and later to be ex wife. Well, that wraps that story up neatly, doesn't it?

All right, I'll go on. We were "antiquing" which is a euphemism for "let's take what little money we have and give it to a toothless old man in New Paltz who smells of cow flop and he'll give us a rusty, dented bucket."

Antique stores lined the road, interspersed with ATMs, strangely enough. Some were old barns, some storefronts, some private homes where weird Uncle Al had been relegated to an upstairs bedroom with the door locked and "Jeopardy" tourament of guys that live with their moms put on to keep him quiet. We only had to stop in the front yard, jump out of the car and tug the door open to enter another delightful emporium of wonderful things that the town would not pick up, even on heavy trash day. We were beside ourselves with joy and could not wait to get to the next little what not shop. We tugged open one door and saw the most delightful antique bed, all made up with an antique blanket and adorned with an antique pillow. There was an antique nightstand and an antique lamp on the nightstand and in the corner stood an antique chair. Yep, the whole thing looked like a perfect store window advertising a modest, upstate bedroom. Trouble is of course, that's what it was. A bedroom. Not a store. We slunk out of there right quick. Upstaters have a more determined idea of firearm ownership than us city boys and girls do.

Once, in New Orleans, my friend Jerry and I were sitting outside at Cafe du Monde one morning, caffeinating off a nasty hangover we both had. It was a lovely morning or at least seemed to be through the blur that was still my vision. It had rained during the night and the sun was now out with a slight breeze blowing the front away from us. The wind was gentle and cool and blowing out TO the Mississippi so our nostril hairs remained relatively straight that day. The Beignets arrived and Jerry had ordered extra powdered sugar. He praised the arrival of the food, the plate of powdered sugar and made a great flourish of dunking his first Beignet into the stuff just as that gentle breeze got a stiffy on. Did I mention Jerry is from New Jersey?
Did I mention powdered sugar and a breeze? Did I mention that I was downwind and was now the whitest white boy in the Big Easy that day? Yeah, thanks Jer, what exit you from again?

Flash forward to Key West where, thankfully we had left Jerry behind in Jersey as there was always a breeze blowing in from somewhere and I shudder to think of what he could have launched at me in an airborne way.

Just off of Duval Street, or maybe it was on Duval Street: at some point walking down Duval you no longer know nor for that matter care. Anyone who's been there knows what I'm talking about. Anyway, off or on Duval is a little shack that houses a store called "The Chicken House." It sells, for some reason, chickens and chicken-related paraphenalia. Not chicken gutters or sexers or feeders or beakers, but chicken towels and handbags and plates and such. Whimsical stuff that says "Let's take what little money we have and give it to a toothless old man in Key West who smells of cow flop and he'll give us a rusted, dented bucket, with a chicken on it." In order to pull in more customers cum suckers, the Chicken House had put a large cage out on its front porch with, of all things, a chicken in it. Well, a rooster actually but we're urbanites. This rooster happily walked around its large cage and people would stare and not put their fingers in between the bars and every now and again the rooster would go slightly wild. There was a little toy " Barney" doll in the cage. The rooster, on going wild, would jump on top of the "Barney" doll and try to dry hump the thing. As if this weren't enough, the sudden movement would click off something in "Barney" that caused a voice chip deep from within make the freaking doll sing "I Love You, You Love Me" all during the dry hump, stopping once the aforementioned poultry fornication had stopped.

The Chicken Store could make a fortune if it sold pants. I damn near moistened mine laughing so hard.

Finally, let's head back to upstate where, after we had bought all the dented rusty buckets we could afford, we headed down the road to the charming Bed and Breakfast we had reservations in. We met the charming Innkeeper who told us we had a charming little room in the lock keeper's house. I secretly leered at my girlfriend. "Lock Keeper's House" sounded just this side of kinky and we would unwind here among the rusty bucket traders and get a little experimental, if you know what I mean. The room was "back up the road" and we charmingly followed the charming innkeeper up the charming road in our charming car and she deposited us, yep, right in the bedroom we had earlier inadvertantly walked into.

OK, so we were not going to experiment tonight. We were going to double bolt the doors and put up a hastily lettered "Not A Store" sign in the window. After all, could we have been the only idiots in town?

Well we didn't have to worry. Not that we weren't disturbed but, the Efficient Bunny, while in the bathroom that night, brushing his teeth, found out how charming and dangerous turn of the century, re-modeled lighting can be. There was a pedestal sink, there were two sconces, each with a switch. Instead of turning one off at a time the way normal people would, I grabbed both switches and turned them off simultaneously. That, of course, competed some bizarre 110 volt short circuit that I was only too happy to conduct. The only flexible part of my body, my midriff, shot out and bashed itself into the charming and electrified pedestal sink.

Yes, that was one of our quieter nights, comparable to twelve years of marriage I should think.

Bunny (ouch) on.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I Really Must Go

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

Mark Twain said that, and everybody who has picked a book up in America (both of you) knows that so I am trotting an old chestnut out.

What you don't know, the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, once the windowpane acid has kicked in and his voice follows an octavial range that makes Coney Island roller coasters look like Kansas, is when Mr. Clemens said it.

Twain sucked deep on a cigar, downed the rest of his mint julep, somewhere in a Hartford July and opined about the meterological conditions to the amusement of all.

Now, if we had caught the old boy in February, it would have sounded a lot different. Like, maybe:

"If if doesn't fucking warm up soon, I'm packing my ass on the next train to Florida, Goddammit!!"

Yes, even Twain had his limits.

So do I. It is the end of February. The shortest month of the year that drags on like a football game with three minutes to play when you want to watch the "Best of Bugs Bunny" at five in the afternoon.

Whaddya mean they stopped the clock??? You can't do that. Time waits for no one. If if waited for me, I'd put my math homework off for another hour!!

Its cold and I'm tired of it being cold. My shorts mock me from the top shelf of my closet. The lawn is the color of a shit stain and delicious little mommys from up the road walk down the street wrapped in something more akin to what you'd place around an uninsulated water heater.

Winter sucks and I'm tired of it. What's more, it's far from over. What's even more, I can't pack my ass to Florida anytime soon.

This winter has been a lot like a Catholic schoolgirl. It started early and hard. December followed the rules to a "T" and it got cold and snowed like hell and we all thought that this is going to be as barren a season as they come. Sort of like freshman year.

January, sophomore year, winter realized that the nuns didn't see everything. The weather lightened up. Even got a little friendly. Most of us thought, hey, a few warm days, some sunshine, I can deal with this. It was like secretly holding hands during homeroom. It might just lead to a little groping between classes.

February though has been like getting caught smoking by Sister Mary Frank Getrude Adolph Roger in the boy's or girl's room. Detention and eyes on the straight and narrow. A day of warmth has been followed by weeks of retractable cold. Sort of like when God closes a door, he also slams a window on your fingers.

But maybe its gotten to me. March is just around the corner, albeit four days away and you might as well term those lockdown at Alcatraz, they seem so long and the new month so far away. You never know though. Junior year and she's looking at a state school that allows boys and girls in the same room, of all things. Might as well get our technique for coyly hiding gum before French kissing down now.

Or maybe Mother Superior is watching and its lockdown time. You never know. March is like that. The hell with lambs and lions, the month is more like a crapshoot during study hall.

Bunny on.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Girlsy Man

From a film by a noted German director with a heavy accent that, today sounds charming and innocent but would have scared the turds out of our greatest generation grandparents comes the story of The Caustic Bunny, a man grew up in a nice, albeit fraught with stupid child tricks, suburban household and, as an adult, set out to become some sort of writer. Italicized paragraphs are the voice of the noted director. All other comments are identified.

However, on a trip through Bryn Mawr, taken in his early twenties, he became fascinated with places, like the campus, where only women gathered to live, socialize, hunt and accessorize. Realizing that he was witnessing a unique species in a unique place that was constantly being threatened by the encroaching outside world of St. Joe's and Villanova grads, not to mention U. Penn poachers who could fall one of these magnificent beauties with a single well placed degree or trust fund shot, he decided that his life should take a dramatic turn: he would dedicate himself to the preservation of this beautiful habitat and these awe inspiring creatures that lived there.

Against the advice of family, friends, drinking buddies and anyone who's ever picked up a dinner and movie tab, he began to camp in the places where only women lived.

"The camera is rolling and the cab that brought me here has left. I won't tell you where I am because I don't want other men to find out and follow me here. I want to observe, to interact with and to be with these women all by myself in their space, on their terms. Maybe that's a little crazy, maybe I'm a little nuts, but there are so few of these places left and they're very dangerous and therein lies the thrill. Like I said, the cab has left and he won't be back until the fall to pick me up, so here I am in my first expedition."-C. Bunny

"Yep. I hated going there. Usually, its a good fare, but it's awful hard to find and the parking is awful. I remember dropping him off and thinking, if he gets out of here with both balls, it'll be a fucking miracle." -Dumpft Off - Taxi driver.

As a film maker, Bunny sometimes wandered into the magical serendipity of that that happens after the shot has ended. This was never so apparent as the clip in the coffeehouse where he is observing in his first season, the women in their natural setting, oblivious to the danger all around him.

"Well, (in a hushed voice) that's the one I'll call 'Lisa' just finishing up her espresso grande. Its the first one of the morning and she's clearly wrapped up in her copy of the Wall Street Journal so I feel pretty safe here with the camera rolling on her. She's in her spring finery. Clearly, she's been to the hunting grounds at Nordstrom's which is just a few miles downriver. I'll tell you, even for a relative outsider like me, I can tell when it's been a long winter season by how worn their outer coats are." C. Bunny

At this point, he clearly wants to cut the scene. Watch as a woman wanders into the frame to the left of the camera. This is part of the magic that big studios cannot capture in films like "Must Love Dogs."

"Excuse me, are you some kind of a film maker?"

"Yes I am. My name is Bunny."

"I'm Christine."

Christine snatches the baseball cap from his head and he proceeds to give chase. He follows her to the den of her loft and we do not see Caustic Bunny for several hours. He emerges to finish the shot. This is the one time that he allows himself one of the luxuries of the outside world he has otherwise sworn off of.

"Probably not a good idea, smoking cigarettes like this but old habits are hard to break." -C. Bunny

Bunny constantly tempted the gods of danger and peril, making his films in such close proximity to women. Living amongst them, one can see over time, as he appears on screen, that he feels more and more confident and safe in his environment. It is hard to argue, even as an outside observer, that there is not absolute beauty in the scenes, particularly the ones shot at gathering places and watering holes. However, we constantly, as viewers, have to remind ourselves that this man, living with and amongst women, was as entirely out of his element as a fish out of water or a magazine editor without a blog. There were scenes of the film where that danger became imminently apparent and we, particuarly the men, cannot watch the movie without a chill running up our spines and our hands involuntarily covering our groins.

"And so this one, I'll call her Elizabeth, can be seen every morning running the same path-"

"Excuse me. Are you filming me?"

"Uh. Well, yes. Um. Sort of."

"Are you fucking insane?!! It's seven in the morning! I just crawled out of bed to go get a newspaper!! I've barely brushed my hair, no makeup, look at what I'm wearing and you've got a camera!!!!"

"As far as I'm concerned, he was a wild eyed dreamer who got exactly what was coming to him. Now my people, the guys from the softball team, have been living around women for, oh, the last twenty years. But our culture understands it's us and them and we draw a line and don't cross it. I think that when he crossed the line, he signed his own papers." H. Moss Central Falls 'Buckeyes' pitcher.

We can only imagine the panic as we hear his tortured breathing, running from the scene, camera bouncing wildly only occasionally capturing his original subject chasing him in sweatpants and an NYU t-shirt. Was this the woman who finally cut him down? As we know, the lens cap was left on in a moment of terror that was the last, unfortunate scene of his film. We may never know what happened to Bunny, but an appearance on "Letterman" a few months earlier, before his tragic disappearance.

"Please welcome Caustic Bunny, who is living among women."

(applause and a few gasps)

"Now, you live with them?"

"In their midst, yes."

"Isn't that dangerous?"

"It can be, it all depends on how you approach them. You don't want to get too close."

"I mean, close. You're taking some chances aren't you? Are we going to read that one of these days, one of them has, you know, married you?"

How close to the final truth Letterman was, we will never know. All we have left of Caustic Bunny, the only evidence that he was ever here, is his camera with the chilling audio record of his last encounter and season passes to the Red Sox. This is made all the more terrifying in that, he knew, he knew his ultimate fate and he left them behind. Just off of third base, close enough to insult Jeter, yet mementos of a life to which he would never return.

We listen to the final recording. This is not appropriate for children. The woman's voice is the first you hear.

"So, I had a good time last night. The movie was a little long but dinner was good."

"I'm glad. Can I call you next weekend? I'm busy this week but I thought we could see Capote or something?"

"Funny you should mention next weekend. My parents are in town. I'd like you to meet them."

We can only thank a merciful providence that the lens cap was on.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Paws for Effect

I work in a second tier glamor industry, publishing. That's where you get to hob nob with the yet to be published, the moderately literate, the nearly recognized at cocktail parties where a near name brand vodka martini is served.

Its wonderful and everything I ever wanted to do with my life.


No, of course not. I'm sitting in a printing plant on Long Island right now. It's eight thirty on a Thursday night and no, this is not what I conjured up on "Career Day" back in nineteen seventy something.

It sucks. I need to review some printed color for a to be released book jacket because the color went all to hell the first time around.


Who the hell knows? This isn't rocket science. If it were rocket science, smart people would be working at it. But they aren't. Hopeless hacks like me who took a wrong turn at the employment agency are staffing endless linoleum halls turning out book upon book that is destined for a wet glass ring on somebody's coffee table in the Poconos.

Do you think someone named Caustic Bunny could be thrilled about this career? Come on, how long have you been reading me? Both of you. You know who you are.

Speak up, stop hiding in the shadows.

So where did it all go so wrong? It didn't Not that it went right, it just went. You run along at full tilt trying to build a life and career and then you pause mid way to asess what it is you've done or haven't.

Some folks hit the sweet spot. Some folks don't and are horribly disappointed. Some just look around and realize they're a giant rabbit with a dry sense of humor.

Which is funny 'cause I prefer red vermouth in my martinis.

But anyway, at the halfway mark I've found a propensity to put words on screen and generally like what's there. Sure, it ain't Grillparzer, what is? Well, Grillparzer for starters. But half the time at least someone gets a chuckle and since there are an infinite number of halves, you should all be rolling in the aisles.

Both of you.

Or at least one of you. The half thing applied.

Bunny on.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Road Bunny

There is preciously little to do in the Indianapolis Airport at one thirty in the afternoon, hideously early for a four o’clock plane, than drink beer.

It masks the pain of your realizing that either the bluetooth connection to your laptop is not installed, working, or more than likely, you are too stupid to use it. I’m going for the last option as fizzy hops start to infuse my brain. I worry less about missed emails by the moment.

No, not really.

The sound system is playing Coldplay, a song which reminds me either of every song U2 has cut out of their albums, or a cat being neutered without benefit of anesthesia. Never mind, the band is tremendously popular with a woman I care deeply for so I will soldier on with a stiff upper ear. That, and in dark moments alone, continue to refer to them as Headcold or U2 Too.

In a little while, I’ll shuffle myself and my baggage through the TSA (Transportation Stupidity Administration) security checkpoint and disrobe to the point of wishing I had worked on those abs a little harder all to ensure that I won’t do anything worse on board the aircraft than push peanuts up my nose. I don’t have any issues with security checkpoints nor do I in principle object to going through most of the random and seemingly senseless searches and bag dumps trotted out by the TSA. I’m sure that there’s a significant purpose to the security precautions, no matter how silly they may seem. What disturbs me is that I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the TSA workers feel the same way. They have no fucking idea why people need to take their shoes off, turn their head and cough. But it must be good for flushing terrorists somehow. Just not sure how. And bothering to ask puts you on an immediate no fly list. Do not pass go, do not collect your boarding pass.

You have to, if you are cursed with hauling a laptop around the skies, remove that laptop from its protective carrying case and run it through x-ray.

Again, I have no idea why. Perhaps the foam padding of the case hides secret wires connected to fart bombs stowed in the deepest recesses of the evil carrying case. Perhaps the case protects the delicate electronics of the computer from the harsh x-rays guaranteed to scramble multiple hard drives and we can’t have that, can we. Perhaps, early on, a TSA inspector was bitten by a laptop that was hiding in the dark at the very back of the carrying case. The poor fellow innocently reached in and got a nasty nip on the forefingers. Pulling the little nasties out of the case will keep prying fingers safe from hereon in. Everybody knows how docile laptops become in the light of day.

The thing that bothers me most about the checkpoints are the varying senses of urgency enforced upon the innocent traveler. Dashing for the plane, you have to come to an absolute crawl so that some geriatric with worse eyesight that Stevie Wonder can check out your driver’s license and note that, “you’ve shaved your mustache off.” Yes, yes I have. I want to be clean shaven when I meet the prophet. No. I didn’t say that out loud. Don’t worry. Anyway, we continue to disrobe and slither through the x-ray station slower than a slug on ‘ludes and then, suddenly, once we’re clear, we have to re-dress and gather our things faster than waking up in a strange bedroom with an angry boyfriend downstairs.

It’s like gigolo training.

With any luck, I will be on my plane at four, right on time and ahead of the paralyzing nor’easter that will descend on my mid-Atlantic home this weekend, laying down a full inch to inch and a half of snow. I had better stock up on bread and milk for, as anyone knows, milk soaked bread is the only viable nutrition source for the wilds of winter.

With better luck, my plane will be called early and I’ll be able to depart the bar where a young fellow has just sat down with an attractive French woman and has begun to recount his entire recent romantic history through his nose. She keeps making phone calls and looking around anxiously. He keeps starting up the conversation with “yeah, so anyway.”

Yeah, so anyway. She’s not interested. Neither am I. Neither is anybody else within earshot of you and that’s a lot of people. Oh heck, and he’s only a few sips into his beer. This is going to get a lot worse.

And beer will worsen it. For both of us. Time to catch a plane.

Bunny on.

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